I know we’re not supposed to use the s-word (stupid), at least not around small children. And we’re not to call other people the s-word either.
But what about ourselves?
Have you ever called yourself stupid?
When the Answers Don’t Come
“Am I really just stupid?”
I asked my husband Jeff this a few days ago about myself. More than once, actually. I needed an outside opinion about my intelligence lately, or lack of it, to be precise.
I had signed up as a volunteer partner in an online project. It was an area I thought I had some expertise in. I anticipated contributing to the task.
Until the assignments starting rolling in.
And I felt clueless. How could I perform the work if I couldn’t even understand the questions?
I wanted to panic. I googled; I watched tutorials; I asked around.
But the answers weren’t coming.
I wanted to tiptoe backwards out of the group, unnoticed, silently, to avoid looking stupid.
Stupidity Is My Hot Button
I hate feeling stupid.
No one likes the feeling, I suppose. But as an Enneagram Five, I’m particularly touchy about it. We Fives lean on our knowledge as a crutch to feel secure.
And my crutch was not only kicked away, I envisioned it landing in the dumpster.
Meanwhile, emails were piling up with unfulfilled assignments from the group. My inner ego was under threat.
I opened the next email. But it wasn’t from the group. It was from EnneaThought, a daily newsletter I subscribe to from the Enneagram Institute.
The email said,
“One of your sure-fire ‘hot buttons’ is having your competency questioned. How can you be less reactive to such challenges? Try keeping your cool and listening to the other person’s viewpoint.”
Why not try it? When you know you don’t know, what do you have to lose?
This will feel painful, too.
So I resumed responding again to the group. I asked more questions. I confessed ignorance. I gave best-guesses.
- I still felt limited…
Granted, I realize no single person is the repository of all knowledge on every topic. (But if possible, I’d love to try!) It’s expected that we can’t know everything. Even the top-notch expert and the simplest-minded child are closer than you think on the intelligence scale.
- …but I knew I wasn’t empty.
I did know a few things. And when I prioritize what I want to know, I can learn even more things. Our competencies vary from person to person; it’s as it should be. We each decide what’s important to us and we work on that.
We eventually find out what we need to know, even if it’s not everything we want to know.
- I still felt vulnerable…
Not knowing what we want to know can feel us leaving unprotected. As if things are spinning out of control, and we can do nothing to stop it.
- …but I knew I was protected.
None of us are left totally alone to figure out life by ourselves.
We can use the intelligence we do have to ask others for help when we need it. (And thank you, Google.)
Welcome to the Human Race
Thinking we’re only stupid can be a trap, just like thinking we’re only smart.
The truth is: we’re all a little of both.
The stupidest thing is overestimating our smartness. It’s smarter to know we don’t know it all.
My online group project still hasn’t ended, but we’re closing in on a successful conclusion. I wasn’t able to help as much as I had anticipated.
But I learned a lot. About the project. And about myself.
I learned I’m safer (and smarter too) without that extra layer of pride that gloms to my character, making struggles stickier than they need to be. We all have pride to kill, and we’re better off with it dead than allowing it to keep rising up for one more breath.
I’m not there yet. I’m not smart enough to kill off pride altogether.
But at least I’m more aware of it this month than I was a month ago.
Am I still stupid?
Yes and no. Just like all of us.
But if I’m smart, I’ll keeping sailing in the same boat with my fellow humans anyway. We’re all floating on a sea of mercy.
Both are smart places to be.
Do you ever feel stupid? How do you deal with it? I’m still grappling with my One Word for 2021, Uncertainty. Share your thoughts in the comments.
- When You’re Not Sure
- Why We Fail to Recognize Our Own Incompetence
- 20 Ways to Practice the Enneagram for Spiritual Growth
- If Jesus Is the Way, It’s Good to Be a Roadie
- Did You Choose One Word for 2021? Linkup Coming April 21